Gordon Allport's contact hypothesis is one of the most useful concepts for studying and understanding race relations. (Pettigrew. 1998). While at Harvard, Allport became interested in the contact hypothesis. It states that, under certain conditions, contact between whites and blacks can reduce the racial prejudice of whites. (Purcell. 2004) For the most part, past research on the contact hypothesis looked at interracial contact in residential, occupational, or military settings. Allport believed that prejudice, although hard to change, was not impossible to change. In the military setting, it was observed that desegregation in the merchant marines had led to more positive attitudes towards African American sailors.
In 1990, a General Social Survey was conducted. The survey included 1, 150 white respondents from 84 sampling locations in the Chicago area. Respondents answered questions in regards to the positions of Whites, Blacks, and Asians. The questions included how hard the groups were believed to have worked, how dependent they were on welfare, and how intelligent they were.
In the survey, Whites scored higher in every area, Asians scored higher than the Blacks, and the Blacks scored the least.
One of the questions surrounding Allport's Contact Hypothesis is under what conditions does contact between groups change stereotypes? Mary Lee Taylor, one of the students selected to work on the hypothesis with Allport, used the 1990 General Social Survey to answer that question by studying the demographic area of the sampling units in the survey. Each unit was given a measure of integration within the unit. Taylor's idea is that segregation within a community, rather than the ratio of the minority to the majority is a better predictor of stereotyping. (Taylor. 1998). According to Allport's hypothesis, the more integrated the community, the more contact there will be between the two groups of people.
In my workplace, I believe this hypothesis to be true. I have 100, very diverse students. I believe that the more contact they have with each other and the more they are forced to integrate, the better they will get along. When I have two students who do not seem to get along, I sit down with both of the students for a talk. I find that the more contact the students have with one another, as long as it is closely monitored, the better the students end up getting along. In the case of segregation, blacks and whites eventually learned to get along. This did not happen immediately but through time. The more they were together, the more tolerant they learned to be with one another.
Pettigrew, T. (1998) Retrieved February 15, 2005 from http://puki.org/socialpsyc/pettigrew3.html.
Purcell, D. (2004) Retrieved February 15, 2005 from http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/view.cgi?acc_num=ucin1077843541.
Taylor, M. (1998) Retrieved February 15, 2005 from http://puki.org/socialpsyc/taylor2.html.